Peak mining body says federal laws protecting Aboriginal heritage do not need strengthening

In a parliamentary review, the state body that serves hundreds of Australian mines and mines exploration firms stated that improving Federal Aboriginal patrimony rules will be "overreached."

But the Law Council of Australia stated the contrary at the same hearing of Rio Tinto's devastation of a 46 000-year-old holy site in Juukan Gorge, arguing that there is a "urgent need" for federal guidance on preservation of the Indigenous cultural heritage.

In order to ensure state and territorial legislation, the Commonwealth said that essential values such as self-determination, free , prior and informed consent from Aboriginal traditional owners be enshrined.

Related: After agreeing to quit, traditional owners claim Rio Tinto kept carrying explosives in the gorge of Juukan

In Australia 's industrial and remote area, the Australian Mining Exploration Council (Amec) believed the new laws had offered adequate security and could also be streamlined.

Warren Pearce, CEO of Amec, said the business had to stop doubling and expense to satisfy two heritage regimes.

But although Pearce said the federal government should follow a realistic approach to legacy legislation, he questioned its hands-off approach to helping aboriginal groups, contributing to "chronic underfunding" and "suboptimal performance."

Pearce was "extremely mindful" of Amec's analysis of all the WA governments' existing support for the loss of Aboriginal resources after the Juukan Gorge tragedy, in order to contact ancestral owners again.

Pearce said, "Juukan Gorge was a severe illustration.

"This would not happen in the overwhelming majority of situations.

"The management, avoidance and without disruption of thousands of heritage sites for which [section 18] permits are given, but not applied [which allow corporations to interfere with heritage sites]."

When questioned about the possibility of hundreds of places under s18 where typical owners can not disclose in accordance with legacy agreements including so-called gag-Clauses, Pearce said, "I can not refute this possibility."

The Legal Council reported that there was "a large institutional failure" in federal and state legislation that "has neglected to implement the acknowledgment of First Nations peoples' right to land and water."

The Chief, Pauline Wrights, said, "These governments have not adopted the paradigm shift preceded by the ruling by the high court in Mabo.

The Chairman of the indigenous committee, Tony McAvoy SC, said that the Commonwealth should "display leadership and take free prior and informed consent values and should at least respect the right of the indigenous title holders to defend heritage."

But McAvoy has said that "a specific piece of law which has this higher intent would help start over again."

"We are concerned about competition rights," said McAvoy, "and a need for a statutory solution" between mining firms and indigenous groups.

Related: letter from Rio Tinto Disclosing that powers have been passed to WA until environmental legislation is checked

Executive member Greg McIntyre SC of the Legal Council and the leading native title barrister stated that there was "no specific reason" for the protection of legacy deals between mining firms and conventional shareholders.

As the parties did not act fairly, the agreements should be reconsidered, particularly where they could include provisions that impair or exclude other legal rights which may exist for conventional owners.

The McIntyre case was concluded from 1982 to 1992 and said that there must be a legislative requirement which prohibits contracting outside of rights.

He recognized the under-resourced Native Title Bodies.

"Some [committals] can hardly manage a smartphone," he said.

The inquiry was conducted in reaction to the loss of Rio Tinto in Australia's 46,000-year old rock shelter at the Juukan Gorge.

In May, the shelter was demolished by the iron ore company, with the approval of the conventional shareholders, and it caused a global uproar, a global sharehood rebellion and the firing of three top managers including the global chief executive.

The investigation is expected on 9 December to file its final report.

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